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Quercus ilex - Holm Oak or Holly Oak

Quercus ilex is a variety of evergreen oak, growing to approximately 20-25m in height. Its tolerance of many growing conditions and pollution make it a very versatile plant, often used in urban and coastal settings. Alternatively it can be used for hedging, windbreaks and topiary. Left to grow on its own, it will become a large, structural tree with a rounded crown.

Catkins appear in the Spring, followed by small acorns which will mature the same year. The leaves are dark green and leathery with a whitish underside. Often the lower leaves are spiny, giving a resemblance to the Common Holly, which is also where the name comes from. It is thought that it may have developed this characteristic to prevent grazing by animals.

Native to the Mediterranean region and is often found growing on its own or with Cedrus atlantica in the Moroccan Atlas mountains.

FACT: Quercus ilex has been used for many years. The Ancients Greeks held it in high regard, using the leaves to tell the future and make crowns to honour people. The acorns were worn as jewellery as they were a sign of fertility.
FACT: The wood is very hard and has a high tannin content which acts as a natural preservative. The Romans used it extensively for tools, carts and wine casks.

Plant Profile

Name: Quercus ilex

Common Name: Holm Oak or Holly Oak

Family: Fagaceae

Height: 20-25m

Demands: Tolerant of most conditions. Must be well drained soil

Foliage: Leathery, dark green, evergreen leaves with a whitish underside

Bark: Grey bark, smooth when young and becoming fissured with age.

Fruit: Small acorns

Quercus ilex info sheet

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